Friday, January 20, 2012

It's not Supposed to be Easy

The boys made a cake for me-- 100% by themselves. :)
I'm back. I cleared the post- vacation can't stop daydreaming fog and now I'm running along through life once again. I feel fresh and refreshed.  Life really didn't allow me to do much else, actually.  Of course. What fun is life if not busy and full of excitement! I had to even chuckle to myself when last night, at bedtime, my littlest vomitted alllll over his bedroom floor. Poor little guy.  But what better welcome back to reality Mommy gift could there be??  Actually, I felt very relieved and lucky to be Home for him instead of 3000 miles away wishing I could hug him and rub his back.

I've been thinking about a post I wanted to write for the last week or two. In fact, the first paragraph was written last week. I was fresh and refreshed at that time,  but since then, I've had two long sleepless nights, several 4 a.m. wake up calls and well, life just does that to ya!  You all know it well. It can be tiring. But hey! It's Friday, there's fresh snow on the ground which means nice skiing this weekend and, it's Friday! Yes, that Friday part  gets two nods.
My work for the week is almost done, the kids will be home soon so it's time for me to get these thoughts on paper!
Let's talk racing.  Yes, racing. I know it's only January. I know the lakes are frozen and the roads are likely covered with snow. Well, they are if you live up here in the Northeast. Your first Tri of the season is likely months and months and months away. Right?
That means you have time. Time to think and plan and work your tail off.

This can be the hardest time of the year to train.  As I mentioned, your first races are not even on the calendar screen yet. You are probably a few pounds over the svelte racing weight you achieved last July.  ( as you should be...) It's dark in the wee hours of the morning when many of us like and need to train. It's dark in the afternoon. It's cold. It's windy. The roads are caked in snow. Or ice. Or, both. The pools feel chilier than usual and, your bike is hooked to a trainer. I'm a Northeastern girl so bear with me if you are blessed with warm sunshine and dry roads right now. We are not. I Love winter. You know that if you're a regular reader here on my blog. But I fully admit it adds extra challenges to the swimbikerun obsession many of us are trying manage in our lives.
What was I saying... oh in the winter. It is hard! It is often boring. ( note: 90 min treadmill run haunting me as I type... ) It is lonely. ( I  miss my  lake swims with friends that I enjoy on Friday mornings all summer!!! )  The need to get workouts done because that important race is around the corner does not seems so pressing.  After all....we have lots and lots of time! My first big race isn't until June 24th! Sure, I'll run a few road races between now and then. I'll race in a Sprint Tri ( shhh.. I care a ton about that one too actually) but truly, my first "A" race isn't until the end of June.

With that in mind, training doesn't need to be very serious right now. Right? I can miss a swim or two each week without it realllyyyy impacting my training. I can do most of my runs and parts of the bikes that my Coach assigns.  Because after all, it's only January!!! There is so much time!

WRONG!!! Insert annoying buzzer sound

That nonchalant attitude was ok. Back in late October, after Kona. And even November. Sure... I was rather lazy that month. I let things go when life had me running in 16 directions. ( I say life that way because this is my life too. It is. No matter how I cut it.) December was pretty loose as well. Though I began to get my mojo back and started paying a bit more attention to my long term plan. I began to think about my goals. I refocused on 2012. I had spent some time savoring the success of 2011 so I could feel ready to hit the next year.

Now, the off season is over. Hopefully you have all rested and recovered from the 2011 racing that you did. Because now it's time  to work.  The winter is the hardest time to train but it's very important. It's time to put hours on the bike, pay attention to your stroke in the water, and build your aerobic engine and durability for the run.  One very key way to get the most out of your training is to be Consistent!!!! Do the work. Day after day after day.  Whether it's cold, or lonely, or boring, or too far away from your next race, just do it.  Your work this winter will pay off greatly on race day.

Speaking of race day, there's one more thing  I want to talk about. It was recently pointed out to me that, apparently, it's not clear that in order to achieve personal greatness, you must HURT!!! In other words, if you want to have a breakthrough performance that bests what you've ever done before, or if you want to beat the person you've been chasing for years, it's doesn't just happen  in the excitement of race day. There is a place you must go, in your head and in your heart , that allows you to Fight through all phsyical and mental "pain" to reach your success.

Chrissie Wellington, Mirinda Carfrae, Craig Alexender... the best Ironman athletes out there right now. They make it look easy. They are so strong and so fast it must not hurt them the way it hurts those who finish in 16 hours. Right?
oh so so wrong.
I've seen these athletes up close and personal in Hawaii.  Let me tell you, they were fighting. With every ounce of everything they had.  I ran towards Mirinda when she had 2 miles left to go... Chrissie was only minutes in front of her.  Rinny's teeth were literally gritting...she was digging as hard as anyone I saw that day. 

I had great successes last year in my racing.  Before I lined up in the water on those big days,  I had done hours and hours and hours of solid training. I worked hard all season to prepare for my events. Some of my workouts were knock down perfect write home to your Dad and gain tons of confidence workouts. Some of my workouts made me want to crawl into a hole and cry.  But I did all my workouts. I rested when I needed rest. I pushed my limits when it was time to do that.  Did that mean that on race day, it would all be easy? After all, I trained hard, I did all my long workouts, my short fast workouts, got to race weight, rested and was mentally ready for the distance. So then, why wouldn't it be easy?
I'll tell you why.
Because I wanted to go faster than I had ever gone before.
I wanted to beat anyone who came near me.
And that, is never easy.

It hurt. My big huge PR in Lake Placid hurt me to the core.  I had to dig so deep to keep moving forward. My legs felt like lead weights, they ached, they were cramping, I desperately wanted to lay down in the middle of the road. You see, with all that training and preparing, I gained a huge amount of fitness, strength and confidence. I knew I could do it. I knew I could take all that preparation and make it happen.  I could have just 'run' that 140.6 miles in a respectable time without too much suffering. The distance wasn't my challenge that day. Yet what I wanted was more. And to get that, I had to break out of my comfort zone. Out of my happy place. I had to dig. I had to believe and keep at it the.entire.way. And guess what, it worked.
And for a week after, my 7 year old had to help me walk. not kidding here...Nick held me up on many occasions that week...and if he wasn't there, the wall held me up. 

Yes, you have to train and you have to train hard. Sometimes hard training means running multiple 18-20 mile runs over a month or two, sometimes it means riding your bike at supra-threshold power levels, sometimes it's swimming 3500 yards with faster intervals than ever before, sometimes it's a 100 mile bike ride one day with a 10 mile run the next,  sometimes it's super fast runs on the track, and sometimes it means doing 14 days of training without  day off.  Hard training takes all different forms, depending on the athlete and depending on your goals.

Do the work. Keep at it. Start now. Don't skip workouts for no reason. Be tough and put on a neckwarmer and maybe hat.  Ask for help when you need it. Get your rest. Eat well.  Day after day after day. 

And then, pack your bags. It's race time.
Race day is exciting and full of adrenaline. The crowds are a bonus and certainly help the miles go by.  Let's imagine it's a marathon day....
Those things will give you a boost for oh...say... 6 miles? I'll be generous and say 6 miles.  It depends on the course. On the weather. On the town....
So if you want a PR and you want to breakthrough to a new place in your personal performance... that leaves you 20.2 more miles to go... all on your own. 
Can you do it???
Are you ready?

I think those cold winter runs and rides and swims are a good time to start thinking about it. Crawl back into your head and dig into your heart and decide how you're going to do it on race day? Will you take the comfy way home or will you make it hurt, give it more than ever before  and cross that line with shaky wobbly legs that will refuse to walk another step forward once you finish?

Think about it. What kind of finish line do you want?


Michelle Simmons said...

I remember that look on Rinny's face too... I thought that I had never actually seen anyone with that look before. Sheer grit!

Marisa said...

Hot damn, girl!! I've finished my workout for the day but this post makes me want to do another one RIGHT NOW and kill it.

Mike Webber said...

That was an awesome, an motivating post, Angela. So much so that I read it last night AND again this morning. Now, off for a run!

Marcille Sibley said...

Happy Birthday, Ange!

Anonymous said...

Never have truer words been written.

Learn to love the never ending pain if you want to be the best you can be.

40 days to my next IM and I'm going to print your post and read it every day :)

Karen said...

Awww they did a good job with that cake! :) HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANGE!

Mary IronMatron said...

I love it when athletes ask me when it will stop hurting so much to train/race/be....
If you are doing it right, it doesn't.

Robyn said...

Okay, it was this post that kicked me off the fence and committed to an organized effort to Get Faster this year. I ran 7 miles this morning faster than I ever have before. Thanks, from a lurker!